Our town is currently going through the budget process for the upcoming year. Have you ever looked at your town budget? I have been going through just the school department budget (line by line) and it is enough to make my hair straight.
One of the reasons I love living in a small town is the opportunity to be involved in the process. Everyone truly has a voice, if they use it. In the school department case, the townspeople elect the (unpaid, volunteer only) school committee. The committee hires a superintendent. The superintendent hires the school staff. People unfamiliar with small town policies forget that at the end of the day, the school superintendent and committee answer to the townspeople. We are supposed to be involved and ask questions so we understand not only what is happening in our town but why our taxes get raised (every freaking year).
It is not just the school department, but every public department head and/or committee in our town truly has to answer to the townspeople. This is especially true at Special and Annual Town Meetings. We are kind of the boss, if you will. In turn, we respect the committees we elected. We admire and are thankful for those who will get off their couch and out of their house to serve our town management. They are unpaid and during the budget season I do not think they ever have dinner at home. Or see their own families.
While we respect the committees and the work they do, we reserve the right to ask questions when there is confusion or need for clarity. On the whole they quickly respond and usually provide you with the answers.
Sorry for the back story, but it leads up to my most recent epic fail. (Most recent, as in I fail all the time and it is usually epic.)
The other night, after spending a week looking at the school budget (line by line) and feeling confused I attended the committee meeting. I wanted to receive answers directly from those who drafted the budget. I had a lot of questions. I had percentages of increase. I had very strong inquiries about how this budget would affect my children. Especially Bridget, not that Abby is not important. But Bridget has a lot of, well…issues. This budget could (in my mind) potentially affect how her services are delivered.
I had five minutes.
People, I am a writer not a public speaker for a reason.
I had my statement and questions (written, of course). It was my time to speak and….I sounded like I didn’t have a brain in my head. I was flustered, I wasn’t as concise as I needed to be. NEEDED to be because my questions were important. My questions deserved answers, yet I choked. When the parents of the school system who could not be there to ask for themselves, I let them down. I let my daughter down by not advocating for her in a manner that not only got my point across but in a way that would have had impact.
The saving grace of this epic fail is that I did speak. Better, I followed up in an e-mail to get the answers I needed. I’m a much better writer than public speaker.
In the short term, though, whenever I think of the term “epic fail” I will think of the time I went to the school committee to plead for my daughter’s program and had not effect.
This Finish that Sentence prompt was brought to us by the fabulous, and I mean wicked awesome:
Allie at The Latchkey Mom